Six Nations: France risk taking wooden spoon

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FRANCE coach Philippe Saint-Andre has refused to use a congested domestic calendar as an excuse for Les Bleus’ 
lamentable RBS Six Nations campaign.

Saint-Andre’s team will head to Twickenham and an appointment with England later this month after losing their opening two Five or Six Nations games for the first time since 1982.

Wales’ 16-6 success in Paris, followed a 23-18 defeat in Italy six days previously, and the wooden spoon has now become a distinct possibility for the pre-tournament favourites.

France, flat and lethargic for much of the Six Nations championship so far, have seen their top players regularly involved in a packed domestic schedule, with those club demands clearly affecting what Saint-Andre is able to do at Test level.

“There should be no excuses,” he said. “We are in a magical [Six Nations] competition. It is what you dream about being involved in as a player, and it is why I wanted to play rugby.

“The simple fact is that the Welsh were more reactive, more aggressive and they outnumbered us two to one when it came to tackling our player with the ball.

“They stopped us from liberating the ball, something we were very good at doing back in November (when France won all three Tests, including against Australia and Argentina).

“The calendar is due to be discussed in June by the league, the (French) federation and the players, and I hope everybody shoulders their responsibilities.”

And asked specifically about England’s sizeable challenge, Saint-Andre said: “We must not be scared.”

For Wales, it was their biggest victory in the French capital for 38 years. George North’s 73rd-minute try clinched the win, while full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked three penalties and a conversion from his four shots at goal.

“To triumph in a place like Stade de France has to be one of the best victories we have had as a squad,” said scrum-half Mike Phillips after the team bounced back from their opening weekend loss to Ireland in Cardiff.

“We are a far better team than we have been showing and it was fortunate we had another game so quickly after last Saturday to put things right.

“We were adamant we were going to do well in the first 20 minutes and not make another bad start. The body language of the French told us we were doing well.”